'Aimer ainsi': rekindling the lamp in Pelléas

Smith, R. L. (2011) 'Aimer ainsi': rekindling the lamp in Pelléas. In: Rethinking Debussy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 76-95. ISBN 9780199755639 (hardback) 9780199755646 (paperback)


Recent productions of Pelléas et Mélisande have often used current strategies in interventionist “subsequent” or “afterlife” interpretations, terms emanating from Jonathan Miller's book Subsequent Performances. Two approaches are popular: first, to use current psychoanalytical and psychotherapeutic concepts to interpret the play and opera; second, to set the opera in its own age, the turn of the nineteenth century. Instead of such graftings of meaning, this chapter returns to the worth of original significances, as reflected in Maeterlinck's early writings, to determine his views of destiny, fate, and theology and their effect on the central cameo of the opera: the idealized, incomparable love between Pelléas and Mélisande. The chapter is motivated by two beliefs: that Miller's “subsequent performances” are preceded by a primary concept of particular worth, and that we must test whether this concept of worth is reflected in the musical projection.

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